From my book, Summer: A User's Guide
One night each year in mid-August, I set the alarm clock for 3:00 am, shake the cobwebs out of my thick, sleep-filled head, then lumber outside with my hoodie, and cup of tea, to watch the amazing light show that is the Perseid meteor shower.
The Perseids--for those who have never watched them--are an annual shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle. Visible from mid-July to mid-August each year, the shower usually peaks somewhere between August 8 and August 14, during which point, hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen; it is truly spectacular.
Best observed from points in the northern hemisphere (and outside of large cities where lights and pollution don’t dim the visibility), these “shooting stars” are made up of tiny dust particles which become extremely hot as they hit the Earth's upper atmosphere at speeds of 20-50 miles per seconds, generating streaks of light across the night sky before they fade away.
All that is very interesting, of course, but the romantic in me just likes to make wishes each time I see one go shooting by.
Tips for enjoying the light show…
- The Perseids extend throughout the month of August; however, the best nights are usually August 11, 12, and 13. This year, August 12th looks to be your best bet if the weather cooperates.
- The best viewing hours are between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.
- On average, expect to see about 1-3 events per minute.
- It may be cool at night, so bring along warm sweatshirts, or blankets, and a thermos of coffee, tea, or cocoa to chase away the chill.
- A comfortable chair, or pillow is essential if you’re planning on gazing for more than a few minutes.
- Forget the camera and binoculars--they won’t do much good. Instead, just sit back and enjoy the show.